THE BATTLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
Up to the landings at Leyte the United States merchant ships had fared rather well in the Pacific. It is true that there had been combat and losses, but the warfare against submarines had been mild as compared to that in the Atlantic. Merchant ships had also suffered little from air attacks, for the early island bases which we conquered offered only limited air opposition, and even that was quickly neutralized before merchant ships went into anchor in large numbers. The action in the Philippines, however, was a different story. Here, the enemy had numerous air bases that could not be easily and quickly knocked out. Here, for the first time, the enemy decided to use suicide attacks on a large scale. His bombs and torpedoes did little damage as compared with the havoc wrought by his kamikaze pilots. The nature of the campaign also required merchant ships to remain in Philippine waters for long periods of time before they unloaded. All in all, the battle for the Philippines was, from the standpoint of the Armed Guard, the most severe action in the Pacific and was fully as bad as the worst days on the North Russia run, the Salerno landings, or the awful struggle at Anzio. Once again, merchant ships would absorb the most vicious attacks that the enemy could deliver and would still come out victorious. The Battle of the Philippines represented a real blow to the air and naval power of the Japanese Empire. It was, therefore, a great landmark on the road to Tokyo.
The successful conquest of Morotai in September and October of 1944 was the prelude to the landings at Leyte. Several merchant ships played a part in the conquest of Morotai. A number of these ships went on to Leyte at a later date and became involved with the enemy there. A review of some of the action at Morotai will serve to illustrate the experiences of merchant ships there. The India Victory was at Morotai from September 28 to October 17. During this period there were 37 alerts and seven attacks close to the ship. She scored an assist on October 8 and had bombs land fairly close on October 9 and 11. However, the William H. Gray did not fire her guns during the same period. Her Armed Guard officer characterized the raids as being of the nuisance variety. The Joseph E. Wing experienced 39 alerts in the same period, but fired her guns on only three days. Her Armed Guard officer complained of the large amount of flack. His ship was hit on September 30 by flack and small projectiles and one Armed Guard was slightly wounded. The enemy came within range of the guns of the Thomas Corwin only four times, and she scored an assist on October 8. The W. B. Rodgers had already been through two extended bombings at Sorido, Biak Island between September 1 and 9. Two sticks of bombs fell near this ship. At Morotai from October 11 to November 8 she experienced 27 red alerts and 14 bombing attacks. On October 24 her
Armed Guard observed two incendiaries burst over a ship and the enemy pilot strafe the same ship. The Rodgers scored an assist on October 31 and also fired at a plane on November 6. The W. W. McCrackin was strafed on September 28 and 30. She claimed hits on enemy planes on both dates and was credited with the destruction of one plane on October 8. The Maria Sanford was credited with an assist and a probable at Morotai on October 31. The Mello Franco also fired at a plane on this date. The Lindy M. Garrison was credited with an assist on October 8. The Louis Sullivan fired only once at Morotai in October. The Colombia Victory fired three times from November 4 to November 25. The William Allen White fired at the enemy on March 31 at Morotai, but her worst action had been at Biak on September 9 when two bombs landed about 100 yards from the ship.
When six merchant ships anchored in Leyte Gulf on October 22, 1944, just two days after the invasion of Leyte had started, the Japanese began an all-out attempt to destroy American shipping and naval units. These early days were especially critical for merchant ships, for shore based anti-aircraft defenses were only in the process of being completed and air cover still left much to be desired. The David Dudley Field, the first supply ship to enter Leyte Gulf, had her baptism by fire on October 24. One enemy plane barely missed her bow as it crashed into the water. Another hit a tug alongside the Augustus Thomas. A third hit the No. 7 gun tub on the Field and ripped off a wing. The loader at this gun had his shoe cut by the propeller but miraculously escaped injury. As the plane passed over the ship it swept away the ventilators and burned the gunners at No. 6 gun. Three Armed Guards were wounded that day and other personnel were hit by shell fragments. The ship continued to fight after the close call and was able to leave the area no November 3. On October 25 her gun crew shot down a Japanese plane and when planes came in to bomb and strafe on October 26 left two planes smoking.
The Augustus Thomas received more serious damage on October 24. After scoring a hit on a plane that crashed on an LCI, the ship was damaged by a second plane which crashed into a tug alongside. Two men were blown overboard by the explosion. The engine room quickly filled with water. Nevertheless, she accounted for an enemy plane on October 25. Next day three bombs landed only 50 yards away and on October 28
another landed close. A typhoon on October 30 caused the Thomas to collide with another ship and she was beached on November 3.
The Adoniram Judson, one of the first six Liberty ships in the area was at Tacloban dock on the afternoon of October 24, the day after its capture by American forces. Since shore batteries were not in operation until October 26, and since Navy planes were busy elsewhere, the defense of merchant ships was largely up to the Armed Guards. Between October 24 and 28 Japanese planes made 44 bombing runs by day and eight night attacks in which bombs landed in the vicinity. One bomb landed only 15 feet from the ship and punctured her hull with 30 holes. Prior to anchoring at Tacloban the Judson had been narrowly missed by two bombs on October 23, and had claimed the destruction of a plane at San Pedro Bay on the morning of October 24. She claimed two more assists against enemy planes that morning and the destruction of another plane at Tacloban in the afternoon. Her Armed Guard claimed probable hits on two planes and the probable destruction of a third on October 25, the day bombs landed so close. Two soldiers on board were wounded and other on the Tacloban dock were wounded and killed. On October 27, the Judson accounted for another enemy plane which dropped bombs 400 yards from the ship. In some 50 bombing and strafing attacks no less than 40 bombs were dropped in the vicinity of the Judson prior to her departure on October 30.
The Mary E. Kinney reported 88 alerts and that she had done damage to no less than 13 planes, six of which were downed in the titanic air battles which raged from October 22 to her departure on November 9. This ship was at both Tacloban and Dulag during her stay at Leyte. She was officially credited with the destruction of five enemy planes and assists in the destruction of four more. Her closest calls came on October 26, when bombs bracketed the ship and a torpedo missed, and on November 1 when a bomb threw water over the ship.
The Lawrence Gianella was in some 67 bombing attacks between October 22 and November 12 and her Armed Guards went to general quarters about 155 times. She was credited with the destruction of two enemy planes. The Sidney H. Short left three days earlier and reported only 90 alerts and that between 75 and 100 planes had been in attacks. She was credited with the destruction of two enemy planes and the probable destruction of another. The vessel was hit by a small caliber bullet on October 23 and four bombs landed within 100 yards on October 28. Bomb fragments littered her decks after this attack.
Ships poured into Leyte Gulf in an almost unending stream throughout October, November, and December. Practically all became involved in heavy action with the enemy. The Durham Victory arrived on October 23 and shot down an enemy plane the next day. Her Armed Guard officer described much enemy action in the ensuing days. A large
number of ships arrived on October 24. The Clarence Darrow reported 137 red alerts and that she fired 21 times between October 24 and November 12. That her marksmanship was effective is testified by the fact that she destroyed two enemy planes, assisted in downing another, and hit two others. A bomb landed about 50 yards astern on November 1. This ship was lucky enough to escape disaster on November 12, that worst of all days at Leyte, when so many suicide planes came in for the kill. The John Page also turned in a proud record for her 17 days at Leyte. During this time she was in 36 actual air raids and claimed that she shot down four planes and possibly a fifth. Her claims were scaled down to two planes destroyed, two assists, and one probably destroyed. The ship was strafed on October 26 and had a bomb land close on November 5. She survived to make another trip to Leyte in January 1945. On the latter trip she had only four alerts, and bombs were dropped only on January 18.
Perhaps no ship took more punishment than the Benjamin Ide Wheeler. She was defended at Leyte for 76 days and her Armed Guards went to general quarters 353 times before they were removed and underwent 93 bombing or suicide attacks. She destroyed a plane on October 24, hit two planes on October 25, and even after seriously damaged destroyed planes on October 29 and November 3, and hit a plane which crashed on November 14. The ship was first damaged on October 26 by a near bomb miss, but this damage was not serious. On the next day a suicide pilot crashed his plane into the ship. Helpless for
more than two months, her Armed Guard continued to defend her. On November 5 there was a flash fire in No. 4 hold that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers with two others wounded. Bombs also landed close in early November. On November 11 the ship ran aground next to the Augustus Thomas, and bombs landed close on November 11 and 12. The only damage the ship received in the suicide attacks of November 18 and 19 came from a small bomb which hit the starboard side of the boat deck but did not start a fire. Bombs also landed close on November 24. On December 25 the ship moved to the inner harbor at Tacloban and on January 7 her Armed Guards were taken off. Some of them were back at Leyte in February. The best estimate of the Armed Guard officer aboard the Wheeler was that only about ten percent of the enemy attacks were directed at shipping. He should have known, for he was there through practically the whole campaign sitting on a cargo of gasoline and high explosives. Only one Armed Guard and one merchant seaman were killed in the suicide attack which disabled the ship.
Bombs landed close to the Leonidas Merritt on November 3 and 4, but November 12 was the tragic day for this ship. She was at Dulag, Leyte when a suicide plane crashed into her at 1125 and set her on fire. By 1200 the fire was under control and the wounded were being removed. Only two Armed Guards were wounded. A number of Army personnel were injured and one member of the crew was wounded and one killed. A soldier was also killed. In the afternoon another
plane crashed into her midship deck house killing one Armed Guard and wounding nine Armed Guards and two merchant seamen. The ship shifted anchorage to San Pedro Bay on November 22 and accounted for one plane and assisted in downing two more on November 24 and 26. She left Leyte on November 27.
The Frank J. Cuhel was straddled by bombs on October 24 as she was proceeding to her anchorage in San Pedro Bay. Her Armed Guard officer reported that dawn and dusk were the favorite times for Japanese air attacks. The day attacks were greatly curtailed after Army fighter planes began using the Tacloban air strip on November 1. On the night of November 3 bombs landed close to the ship and she assisted in the destruction of a plane the next morning. An explosion in No. 6 gun tub wounded an Armed Guard and an Army private on November 4. The ship left Leyte on November 9.
The Benjamin Waterhouse appears to have had an easier time at Leyte than many ships. She fired at planes on October 24, 25 and 26. Two of her Armed Guards suffered slight injuries on October 25 and bombs fell on either side of the ship as she was tied up next to the Augustus Thomas on October 26. The appearance of land-based fighters was a welcome sight on October 27. The ship went through numerous alerts to November 3, the date of her departure, but no planes came close enough to justify opening fire.
The David Gaillard reported 162 alerts in about 30 days and
accounted for one plane downed and an assist in the destruction of another. Bombs landed close on November 3, 4, 11 and 12 while the ship was at Tacloban, Leyte. On November 4, the ship was littered with pieces of an incendiary bomb that landed only 50 feet away.
The John W. Foster destroyed two enemy planes while at Leyte between October 24 and November 9. Seven of her Armed Guards were wounded by shell fragments on October 25 and the ship was strafed and had a bomb fall 150 yards away on October 26. Her Armed Guards went to general quarters 82 times. She was one of the first ships to go to Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.
The Cape Constance went through 353 alerts and 114 actual air raids in 53 trying days at Leyte from October 24 to December 15. A heavy bomb landed about 100 yards from the ship on November 4, but her Armed Guards brought down the plane. At 0515 a plane crashed into her kingpost and fell into the sea. The resulting fires were extinguished. Three Armed Guards were wounded slightly.
The Marcus Daly put up a gallant fight against Japanese planes from October 24 to 30 and from December 6 to 22, but suffered heavy damage when two planes crashed into her in the latter month. Her Armed Guard claimed three planes destroyed in October. Between October 24 and 29 some 30 bombs landed near the ship. She was also strafed on October 25. Two Armed Guards and a member of the merchant crew were wounded on this date. We shall describe her action in December later in this chapter.
The Silverstre Esclante scored two assists and destroyed one plane unaided while at Leyte. On October 24 she was strafed and underwent four near misses from bombs, the closest being only about 100 feet from the ship. One Armed Guard was wounded by shell fragments on October 25. Her Armed Guards went to general quarters 82 times in addition to the actual attacks.
The Charlotte Cushman was at Tacloban and Dulag during her stay at Leyte from October 24 to November 9. Her Armed Guard officer recorded 57 actual attacks against shipping and shore installations in this brief period. The ship fired 23 times at attacking planes and knocked down five and hit others. Two of these were torpedo bombers which were shot down just short of the ship as they tried to crash into it. The ship was also strafed on November 1. That her fire was effective in saving the ship is proved by the fact that she forced bombers
to drop their bombs short four times.
The Samuel K. Barlow shot down a plane on October 24 which crashed only 75 feet off her port bow. A bomb hit the ship but did not explode. She also scored assists on October 25 and November 3, and brought down another plane on November 12. One Armed Guard was wounded by a shell fragment on October 26 and two bombs landed close on the same day. She was in the thick of the fighting, for on October 27 a plane crashed into a ship dead astern and she missed a bombing and strafing attack by only 40 yards on November 4. Again on November 19 a bomb landed only 100 yards from the vessel.
From October 24 to December 4 the Cape Romano reported about 100 air raids. The closest bomb landed only 50 to 100 feet away on October 28. It wounded two Armed Guards and three merchant crewmen and left 33 holes in the ship. The Romano claimed assists on November 3 and 18 and the destruction of a plane on November 19 which struck the ship with its wing tip as it fell into the sea. Hits were also scored on other planes.
The next large convoy, consisting of some 16 merchant ships, arrived at Leyte on October 29. These ships met the full fury of the suicide attacks but they were fortunate to secure much protection from the increasingly powerful shore batteries and from rapidly augmented shore based air power. The Cape Juby described only four actual attacks during her 17 days at Leyte, but her Armed Guard
spent about one fourth of the time at general quarters and went to battle stations 101 times. A torpedo narrowly missed the ship on November 1, and another sank before it reached her. She assisted in shooting down one plane on this date. Her Armed Guards claimed a plane shot down and three assists on November 12. The I. N. Van Nuys went through 66 alerts but fired only on November 12, her last day at Leyte. The John Alden, which had scored an assist earlier at Oro Bay, New Guinea on October 15, was credited with another assist on November 3. She escaped the suicide attack on November 12, for she left Leyte three days earlier. The Juan Cabrillo claimed the destruction of the plane which crashed into the Matthew Deady on November 3, and indicated that she was in more than 30 air raids from October 29 to her departure on November 12. She returned to Lingayen Gulf in January 1945. The John Bartram claimed one plane destroyed and partial credit for another prior to her departure from Leyte on December 10. The Wilbur O. Atwater described many air raids during 70 days in the Leyte area. She underwent 165 air raids in early November alone. She assisted in destroying a plane on November 12, claimed damage to two others on November 18, and shot down a plane on December 20. On November 26 a burning plane attempted to crash into the ship but was diverted by 3"/50 fire which exploded under the tail structure of the plane. One Armed Guard was wounded by a shell fragment. The amount of flak falling in the Leyte area had become quite large.
Thomas Nelson was one of the victims of the Kamikaze attack on November 12. A plane dropped a bomb then crashed into the after end of the ship. Two large explosions took place and fire broke out which could not be brought under control for two hours. The attack brought a frightful loss of life. Over 240 Army personnel were reported killed, wounded, or missing. Armed Guards also suffered casualties; three killed, two missing, and two wounded. But the Armed Guards continued to fight back at Japanese planes and, in fact, claimed the destruction of one plane on the afternoon of November 12. In forty days the ship went through 241 air raids and alerts, destroyed two planes and helped bring down a third. The Armed Guard crew lost an average of 20 pounds per man in the forty day period.
The Cape Cumberland claimed three planes downed and an assist in the destruction of another on November 12. She fired at planes on three other days in November. The ship had gone on a reef on October 29 by had been blown off during the gale on October 30. The Amerigo Vespucci was in 47 air alerts and raids, but her main action came on November 12 when she accounted for one plane.
The Morrison R. Waite fought gallantly against suicide planes throughout November 12, claiming two assists and the destruction of one plane. But at 1829 a torpedo plane crashed into the ship causing a large number of Army casualties and wounding two Armed Guards. Fire broke out, but was brought under control. After 40 days at Leyte and
135 alerts the ship was able to travel under her own power to San Francisco.
The Prince L. Campbell, already under air attack at Morotai in September and October, arrived at Leyte on October 29. She was credited with one assist on November 12 and fired several times at other planes. The Seaman A. Knapp underwent 94 air attacks in 24 days and shot down three Zero planes. Bombs missed the ship by 50 yards and phosphorus bombs fell just astern. The Floyd B. Olson remained in the Leyte area from October 29 to the end of the year and reported over 290 raids and alerts. The largest number of enemy planes seen at one time numbered about 15. Her Armed Guard officer observed some 60 planes shot down while at Leyte. The ship had several narrow escapes. On November 4 she was strafed from stern to bow. She shot down one plane on November 12. Two days later, fragmentation bombs straddled the ship and landed only 10 feet away. Fragments were spread over the decks and a hole was made near the hawspipe. Her Armed Guard destroyed the plane. On January 1, while enroute to Hollandia, New Guinea, a torpedo wake appeared across her bow at a distance of about 100 yards.
The Escanaba Victory was anchored at Dulag from October 29 to December 15. In 47 days there were 245 red alerts and her Armed Guard crew stayed at general quarters no less than 277 hours. November 1 was her big day, for on that day her guns brought down two planes
and assisted in the destruction of another. Her gunners destroyed another plane on November 12 which was attempting to crash into the ship. The plane landed only 15 to 20 feet from the ship. It strafed as it came in for the suicide attack. But the Escanaba Victory received only slight damage during the day. She scored three more assists before her departure. Like most Armed Guards, her gun crew lived at their guns while at Leyte and slept when possible.
The Armed Guards on Mathew P. Deady will never forget November 3, 1944. It was a day full of disaster but also full of glory, for they saved their ship. She had arrived at Leyte on October 29 and had moved to Tacloban on November 2. At 0535 on the morning of November 3 a plane dropped bombs and strafed the ship. Her gunners claimed hits before the plane crashed into the No. 2 gun tub. Parts of the plane hit the No. 1 gun tub. Under the No. 2 gun tub was stored gasoline as well as acetylene and oxygen tanks. An explosion and large fire followed the crash. Casualties were heavy. A large number of Army personnel were either killed, missing, or wounded. Armed Guard casualties included two missing, four injured, and one heart attack. Within 15 minutes, five Japanese planes came in to strafe and drop anti-personnel bombs on persons swimming in the water. The Armed Guard accounted for one plane and probably destroyed another. On November 5 a phosphorous bomb landed 25 feet astern. One November 12
the ship hit a plane which barely missed the bridge and crashed 30 feet off the port beam. In the afternoon another plane missed the ship by 100 feet and three others crashed nearby, all within 150 to 300 of the damaged ship. In 44 raids the ship accounted for six Japanese planes. She was able to leave the area on November 22.
The Carl G. Barth was already a veteran in warfare against Japanese airmen when she docked at Tacloban, Leyte on October 29, for she had been in the campaign to take Morotai and had assisted in destroying one plane and had fired at another which exploded and fell into the sea. She had also been strafed and six soldiers aboard had been wounded. She repeated her good marksmanship at Leyte. On November 3 she claimed hits on a plane and on November 4 assisted in the destruction of another. On the night of November 4-5 enemy planes twice dove on this ship and dropped bombs. She was undamaged, but reported a PT boat was hit.
Two other merchant ships received heavy damage on November 12 from kamikaze planes. No attempt is made here to describe attacks on naval units. The William A. Coulter was crashed by a strafing plane and fire broke out. Two Armed Guards were wounded. A few minutes later another plane crashed into the sea by No. 2 gun tub and a piece of the wing hit this gun tub. Numerous hits had been scored on this plane by the Coulter Armed Guard, and it was smoking badly when it landed in the
sea. A third plane was seen to crash after being fired upon by the Coulter. She was credited with one plane and two assists. The Alexander Majors was at anchor about one mile west of Dulag when a Japanese plane dropped a bomb about 50 yards from the ship on November 12. Her Armed Guard shot the plane down. In the afternoon the Majors accounted for another plane and hit still another which crashed into her mainmast. There was a big explosion and flames, but her Armed Guards assisted in destroying still another plane. Only twelve Armed Guards were left on board. Many had been blown into the water by the explosion. But these brave men continued to defend the ship and destroyed one more plane on November 24. From November 4 to December 4 the weary and battle scarred veterans went to general quarters over 160 times. The blazing guns of the Jeremiah M. Daily found their mark on a plane at 1416 on this eventful day but the pilot crashed his plane into the starboard side of the ship just below the flying bridge. The forward part of the ship was quickly engulfed in flames. Not until almost two hours later were they brought under control. Two Armed Guards were killed and five were wounded. The Armed Guard officer gave his life to save the ship. After being hurled across the deck and severely burned he returned to his gun station. Many soldiers and three members of the merchant crew were killed. This fighting merchant ship accounted for three planes and assisted in destroying three more before she left Leyte on November 27. In addition
to the Armed Guard officer there was another Armed Guard who stuck by his gun to the very last when the enemy plane was coming straight at him. He was the other Armed Guard killed.
There were many other close calls on this memorable day. Slowly but surely the Japanese were working out a suicide tactic that was dangerous in the extreme. Each pilot appeared to pick out two targets. He bombed one target and attempted to crash his plane into the other. Often these pilots were dead before their planes finally crashed. Yet on this worst of all the suicide attacks on our shipping not one ship was sunk. But a crashing plane could damage a ship so that long repairs would be required. Damage to cargo and personnel from fire and explosion was also heavy.
The Joliet Victory shot down one plane and assisted in shooting down two others in the late afternoon attack. Earlier she had been strafed and missed by a bomb. Three days before she left Leyte the ship left another plane trailing smoke. The Joe C. S. Blackburn, already credited with the destruction of a plane at Morotai on September 28 and another at Leyte on November 3, had a bomb land close on November 12 but escaped damage. She had her closest call on the previous day when a bomb landed only 50 feet from her side. The Carlos Carrillo did not claim individual credit for her gun crew but that several planes on which they had fired crashed.
The Charles P. Steinmetz made three trips to the Philippines
between November 5 and February 1 and came through without damage. But a bomb barely missed the ship in the attack of November 12. The Watson C. Squire underwent 203 alerts from November 4 to December 15. On November 12 she was strafed and narrowly missed by a bomb. Her Armed Guards destroyed one plane.
Many ships arrived at Leyte on November 12, just in time to become involved in the suicide attack. The Elwood Haynes went into action soon after arrival and accounted for one plane on November 12. Between this date and January 10 the Armed Guards went to battle stations during 223 alerts and spent 191 hours at general quarters. Enemy planes came near 43 times and the ship suffered a near miss from a bomb on November 16. The Cape Sandy had her baptism by fire on November 12. At 1415 a bomb missed by only 25 feet. She was credited with three assists. An LCM from this ship played an important part in rescuing personnel from the Leonidas Merritt and the Alexander Majors. The Henry White shot down a plane which barely missed a Liberty ship. She actually fired only five times, but her Armed Guards went to general quarters 142 times between November 11 and December 21 and the enemy appeared 43 times. The Nicholas J. Sinnot arrived at Leyte on November 12 and did not leave until January 27, 1945, but no report on her contact with the enemy is available. The Luxembourg Victory fired at enemy planes on November 12 and 24 and had 156 alerts in her 33 days at Leyte. The
Ralph T. OíNeil fired at suicide planes on November 12 but claimed no planes destroyed. She was later to be involved in the big action on the approaches to Lingayen Gulf. The Alexander Woolcott participated in the action of November 12 but her big successes were to come on November 24 and 25 when she assisted in destroying two planes. The Andrew D. White reported one assist on November 12. She was back at Leyte at the close of the year and had a bomb fall close on January 1. The John Carroll received credit for no planes destroyed although she may have had a part in the destruction of one plane. She experienced 44 alerts and 20 raids in the ten-day period from November 12 to 22.
The James H. Kimball assisted in the destruction of a plane on November 12. She shot down a plane and assisted in downing another on November 14. On this date five bombs landed from 50 to 75 feet from the ship. On November 19 a suicide plane made two dives at the ship. The first dive missed the bridge. The plane dived again, missed the 3"/50 gun tub and crashed into the sea only 20 yards from the ship. From November 11 to 19 the Kimball Armed Guard officer reported 42 alerts. On November 21, LSTís shot down a plane which landed only 300 yards from the Kimball. The Horace V. White arrived on the day of the big suicide attack, but her voyage report is not available and her part in the battle is not
known. The Esso Rochester apparently did no damage to Japanese planes while at Leyte but she claimed an assist on November 21 while enroute to Hollandia. The Christy Mathewson described numerous attacks but only once did bombs land close on November 23. She claimed a hit on a plane the next day but did not destroy it. The Chief Charlot went through about 220 alerts between November 12 and December 26. On December 6 she shot down a Japanese transport plane with from 14 to 30 men aboard.
Action by other ships in the Leyte area varied from no guns fired to two planes brought down on November 12. The Jacques Laramie destroyed two enemy planes which dived at the ship. The Edward N. Wescott claimed no planes on November 12 but was credited with one plane downed and one assist on each of two days, November 14 and 24. Bombs fell close on November 23. The Armed Guard officer reported that on most of the 34 days spent at Tacloban, Leyte there were from six to ten alerts. The Young American went through two trips to the Leyte area and fired her guns only three times. The Stephen Furdeck claimed no planes destroyed but that one plane was hit. The Cape Neddick went through more than 50 alerts at Dulag and Tacloban, including suicide attacks of November 12 and 13, but was not directly attacked and did not fire her guns. The Ovid Butler was credited with the destruction of one enemy plane on November 12.
The next merchant ship to suffer disaster at Leyte was the Gilbert Stuart. She was officially credited with the destruction of four enemy planes and one assist and claimed damage to three other planes. But one of her victims crashed into the starboard side of the ship on November 18 after its tail had been shot off. Casualties among the Armed Guards were heavy. One was killed and ten were wounded. The Armed Guard who gave his life fired his gun to the last as his gun tub was demolished by the crashing plane. Other persons aboard were killed and wounded. The vessel suffered heavy damage, but was able to bring down its fourth plane on the next day.
On November 19 the Alcoa Pioneer claimed three planes downed and was credited with two assists and the probable destruction of another plane. One plane crashed into the midship section of the ship and an explosion and fire resulted. Six Armed Guards, including the Armed Guard officer, were killed and eight were wounded. Five merchant crewmen were also wounded. Seaman first class Patrick Henry Stevens set a sterling example of courage that day. With one arm almost severed and badly burned he still manned his 20mm gun from the burning gun tub. He was awarded the Silver Star. Nine other Armed Guards were awarded the Bronze Star. The merchant crew also set a fine example by volunteering to man the guns when more than half of the Armed Guard crew was either dead or wounded.
Only one other ship was hit prior to a large scale attack on a convoy on December 5. But there was still much action around Leyte, as the Armed Guard reports indicate. The Gus W. Darnell was already a veteran of the campaign for Morotai, where she had accounted for one plane on October 8. On November 23, eight days after her arrival at Leyte, a Japanese torpedo plane launched a torpedo which struck the ship and caused a large fire. Some of the Armed Guards who were trapped forward by the flames went down a line to landing craft which took them amidships, where they went back aboard. Five Armed Guards were wounded. Bombs fell only 50 feet from the ship on November 24 and her Armed Guards probably destroyed the attacking plane. Her Armed Guards mounted .50 caliber machine guns from Army trucks in order to have more protection. Early in the evening of November 24 a large bomb or torpedo landed just astern. One gunner fainted from sheer exhaustion. Two more planes fell before the guns of the Darnell on November 26. On December 1 the Navy gun crew helped unload cargo. The action of one Armed Guard who was thrown overboard when the ship was torpedoed and who climbed up the anchor chain and through the haws pipe in order to return to his gun station is typical of the fighting spirit of the Armed Guards. They went through 203 alerts before they were finally taken off the Darnell as survivors on January 4, 1945.
The Howell Lykes reported 84 alerts between November 14 and 27,
but she fired only five times and claimed no planes. Only on November 26 did bombs fall very close. Fortunately they were small. The John Sherman had a long stay in the Philippines. She reported 224 alerts and 40 bombing, suicide, and torpedo attacks between November 15 and February 4. This ship was credited with assists on November 24 and 29. Between November 15 and December 12 the John Sweet reported 134 alerts and that planes actually appeared 33 times. She was credited with an assist in the destruction of a plane on November 25. The Francis W. Parker was credited with an assist on November 24 and destroyed one enemy plane on December 6. She was at Leyte from November 15 to January 23 and returned to the Philippines in March and April of 1945. The Jacob A. Westervelt was also at Leyte from November 15 to January 23. Her Armed Guard officer reported going to general quarters 228 times and observed gunfire from ships and shore guns 45 times. The ship fired three times while anchored off Dulag and was credited with an assist on November 24. The John Roach fired her guns only three times between November 15 and December 27 and received credit for no planes destroyed. Her Armed Guard Officer thought that his gunners helped the shore batteries bring down a plane on December 6. The Unicoi arrived on November 19 and did not fire during her stay at Leyte.
During the latter part of November and the first days of December Japanese air action definitely slackened in the Leyte area. This
happy circumstance may be attributed in part to the tremendous losses which carrier and land based planes and ships had inflicted on Japanese air power and in part on the more effective air protection which had been developed in the Leyte area. The voyage reports of a number of ships which were present during this period indicate the relatively mild nature of the attacks as compared with the earlier days at Leyte. That the enemy could still strike with great force and effectiveness at ships at Leyte may be seen from his attacks between December 5 and 10.
While the Allen C. Balch reported 63 alerts in some 12 days at Leyte she reported action on only four days. Bombs landed at some distance from the ship on November 23. She assisted in the destruction of one plane and had shell fragments land on her deck on the next day. The Josiah Royce reported 105 alerts and 20 air raids in 24 days after she arrived on November 15. She was credited with two planes destroyed on November 24 and another on November 26. The Juan de Fuca reported 139 alerts and that bombs landed from 100 to 300 yards from her three times between November 15 to December 15. But this ship was undamaged until she participated in the Mindoro campaign which will be discussed below. Although bombs once fell about 200 yards from the Tabinta, planes came within range of her guns only on November 24. Personnel engaged in unloading the ship were hit by shell fragments on that day. The Francisco Morazan was credited with the probable
destruction of one plane on November 24. Her big action was to come in the invasion of Mindoro. The Robert Louis Stevenson gave a good account of herself in action at Leyte on November 24 and 26 and was credited with the destruction of one plane and two assists. The Laura Drake Gill also downed a plane and assisting in destroying another on November 24. In 27 days at San Pedro Harbor, Leyte, she experienced 134 alerts and 21 attacks. The Lyman Beecher fired nine times during 83 alerts at Tacloban, Leyte. One bomb landed 200 yards from the ship. Her Armed Guard officer claimed one plane destroyed, one probable, and that his gun crew damaged three planes. No planes were officially credited to this ship because of the lack of sufficient information. The Stanley Matthews was credited with an assist and a probably on November 24. A plane attempted to strafe the ship the next day. Her Armed Guard officer thought that his guns hit two planes on November 26, but the ship was only credited with one probable for this date. Three small bombs had missed the ship by 125 yards on November 19.
The Sea Devil was at Leyte for only a brief period from November 25 to 27. Bombs were dropped on November 26 and the ship may have scored hits on a plane. When the attack was over two buckets of shell fragments were gathered from the decks. The Cape Lookout reported that five torpedoes were fired at her convoy on November 23 when one day
from Leyte Gulf. Between November 24 and December 22 the Armed Guards on this ship went to general quarters 103 time and saw about 122 enemy planes. Bombs landed fairly close on November 25 and 26. The ship was credited with assists on November 26 and December 10, and destroyed a plane on December 6. The Jose C. Barbosa probably had a torpedo cross her bow on the approaches to Leyte. Leaving Leyte on January 1 she claimed an assist in the destruction of a plane which launched a torpedo. The Ida M. Tarbell experienced her main action on November 23 and 24. She was in the air torpedo attack of November 23 and on the next day six bombs landed within 25 yards of the ship. Fragments fell over the ship but there was no serious damage and no serious injury to Armed Guard personnel. Her Armed Guard officer thought that his gun probably got a plane on December 22, but the ship was not credited with an assist. The James B. Aswell came through the torpedo attack of November 23 without damage and was narrowly missed by a crashing plane on November 25. The E. W. Sinclair was under constant air attacks prior to her departure from Leyte on November 27. A bomb landed about 100 yards astern on November 24. The USAT Charles Lummis shot down a plane that strafed the ship on November 26. The Hobart Baker downed an enemy plane on November 27 and later became heavily involved in action at Mindoro. The George S. Boutwell reported 132 alerts and 25 attacks at Leyte from November 19
to December 18. On December 6 a bomb landed about 100 yards from the ship and threw fragments on the decks. The Elwood Mead reported 83 general alarms in the 30-day period following her arrival at Leyte on November 19, but reported no other action. On November 26 a plane tried to crash dive the Robert C. Grier after releasing a bomb which missed by about 40 yards. A P-38 brought down the plane. This ship downed one plane on December 6.
Other ships which arrived prior to December 6 saw little action. The Frank H. Evers fired her guns only five times between November 19 and December 15 although she experience 136 alerts. Her Armed Guard probably destroyed a plane on December 6. This ship later went to other points in the Philippines. The David Hewes voyage report indicates that there was much air action between November 24 and January 7 but does not describe this action. It rather refers to the smooth log which was not available when this account was written. The Sylvester Pattie was in the Leyte-Samar area from November 28 to February 1. On December 20 she claimed an assist in destroying the only enemy plane observed by her Armed Guard. The Joseph Simon fired her guns only twice during the entire month of December. The Charles H. Windham and the William Allen White reported no contact with the enemy from November 28 to December 22. The Tecumseh fired only on November 29 while approaching Leyte. In this same attack
the Sharon Victory was credited with the probably destruction of one plane. A bomb landed not more than 55 feet from the ship. Her Armed Guards were also credited with an assist on December 6.
One of the fiercest and most destructive air attacks of the entire campaign for Leyte was that made on a convoy that was northeast of Mindanao and just one day out of Leyte on December 5. The Armed Guard voyage reports of 15 merchant ships tell the story of the action which resulted in the loss of one merchant ship, the Antoine Saugrain, and damage to two other ships, the Marcus Daly and the John Evans. Japanese plane losses probably amounted to ten planes destroyed. The action opened with a bombing attack at about 0840 which did no damage. At 1220 the Antoine Saugrain claimed hits on a torpedo plane which was strafing the convoy. A little later a torpedo hit the ship. At 1231 she claimed hits on another torpedo plane and almost immediately was hit by a second torpedo in her No. 2 hold. At 1247 the order was given to abandon ship. The ship finally went down while being towed to Leyte on December 6.
The John Evans was more fortunate. This ship accounted for two planes during the afternoon of December 5, but the second plane crashed into the Evans. A bomb exploded as the plane crashed on into the water. The Evans was able to make Leyte on December 6. Two Armed Guards and two members of the merchant crew were wounded.
The Marcus Daly, already a veteran of the worst attacks in the Leyte campaign in October, brought down two planes before a third hit her at about 1530 and made a hole ìlarge enough to drive a train throughî. The resulting fire was not brought under control until midnight. A torpedo missed the ship. Some 200 Army personnel were either killed, missing, or wounded. One Armed Guard was killed and seven were wounded. Two members of the merchant crew died. This proud ship made Leyte and assisted in shooting down a plane on December 10 which managed to crash into her. The Armed Guard officer and seven other Armed Guards were wounded in this attack, but the Daly remained afloat.
Other merchant ships in the convoy gave a good account of themselves both on December 5 and in later attacks at Leyte. The Cape Gaspe destroyed one plane on December 5 and received credit for an assist on December 10. Army personnel set up additional machine guns on the ship and manned these guns. This ship reported 63 alerts between December 6 and 18. The Lew Wallace was credited with the destruction of one plane and assistance in destroying two others on December 5. A bomb missed by only 40 yards. On December 10 she downed another plane and assisted in shooting down yet another. These planes were reported to have crashed into the William C. Ladd and the Marcus Daly. The Conrad Kohrs was credited with one assist on December 5. The H. H. Raymond claimed a plane destroyed on December 5 and was credited with a
plane on December 20. The latter plane dropped a bomb and then apparently tried to crash into the ship. It fell into the water 200 yards from the Raymond. The James H. Breasted was credited with one plane downed, one assist, and one plane probably destroyed on December 5. At 1450 a bomb barely missed her 3"/50 gun tub. The John Hart was strafed by the plane which torpedoed the Saugrain on December 5. The Hart was credited with the destruction of one plane on December 6. The Peter Lassen was credited with the destruction of one plane on December 20. The William S. Colley was credited with the destruction of the plane that crashed into a ship on December 5. The Richard Yates received no credit for planes destroyed on December 5 but claimed hits on one plane. The James H. Lane was credited with an assist on December 5 and destroyed another plane on December 25. Her Armed Guard officer reported that a torpedo passed the stern of the ship and missed by only 50 feet. This ship was in the Leyte-Samar area from December 6 to April 8. Earlier she had participated in the Morotai campaign and had assisted in destroying an enemy plane on October 31, 1944. The Morton M. McCarver was in the December 5 attack but did not destroy any Japanese planes.
The only other merchant ship to be sunk in the Leyte operation was the William S. Ladd. Before she went down in Leyte Gulf this ship established the proud record of four planes destroyed. She accounted for one plane on the afternoon of December 5 and knocked
down three on December 10. One of these planes crashed into the Ladd and set 500 drums of gasoline afire. A number of explosions in No. 4 and No. 5 holds followed at 1830 and the ship began to settle by the stern. At 1750 the after guns had been secured and the men manning these guns were ordered to abandon ship. At 1840 guns No. 1 to 5 were ordered secured and the Armed Guards were ordered to abandon ship. Not until 1930 did the last Navy personnel and ship officers abandon the doomed vessel. Eight Armed Guards were wounded when the plane crashed into the Ladd.
The Cape St. Elias reported only 59 alerts from December 10 to January 12. She did not fire her guns. The Bluefield Victory destroyed a plane on December 11 and had a bomb miss by only 50 to 75 feet. The Sommelsdijk, still loaded with troops, was anchored off Guiuan, Samar on Christmas Day when a torpedo plane glided in about 100 feet above the water. This plane dropped a torpedo that hit on the port side at No. 1 hold. The plane crashed into the water. The ship was not lost in spite of the fire in No. 1 hold. The troops were transferred to other ships. Six soldiers were killed and a considerable number were wounded. Three Navy personnel were also wounded.
The Daniel G. Reid reported that there were only 82 alerts at Leyte from December 21 to March 31 and only 25 attacks. Her Armed Guard officer believed that his ship accounted for a plane on December 24.
The Henry M. Stephens was credited with an assist on this date. The Frederick Billings was hit by flak and had bombs fall in the vicinity of the ship during her stay from December 21 to January 11 but did not fire her guns. The Jose Pedro Varela was credited with one plane on December 24 and may have hit others. The W. B. Ayer fired on this date but destroyed no planes. A torpedo plane launched a torpedo at the Pocket Canyon on December 25, one day from Leyte, but the torpedo missed.
Japanese attacks on shipping in the Leyte area became rather feeble and ineffective by the end of the year. The Cyrus Adler arrived on December 8 and did not fire her guns while at Leyte. Only on December 22 was a plane over this ship. The William Vaughn Moody reported action on her 23rd alert. On December 20 a bomb landed only 50 feet from the ship. The Moody destroyed this plane. She also claimed an assist on January 1 in shooting down a torpedo plane which launched a torpedo at the convoy leaving Leyte. Another plane dropped a bomb. The Peter Cooper Hewitt reported several alerts a day from December 13 to 26 and that bombs were dropped on the convoy on January 1 when it was off Mindanao. This ship claimed the destruction of no planes. The Morgan Robertson fired her guns only once between December 13 and March 7. The Norman J. Coleman reported that her only contact with the enemy was after leaving Leyte when bombs were dropped on January 1. She claimed an assist in the destruction of one plane.
The R. P. Warner reported 43 alerts from December 13 to 27 but did not open fire. She returned to Leyte on January 21 and did not fire in 20 alerts [prior] to her departure for Lingayen Gulf on February 4. At Lingayen Gulf four alerts were reported and after her return to Leyte on February 27 some eight bombs were dropped on March 1. The David F. Barry reported several night alerts in late December and early January, but planes passed over this ship only on January 2. The Bennington was at Leyte in early January without her Armed Guards ever seeing an enemy plane. There were several air raids. Leyte was rapidly becoming a very safe place for merchant ships.
It can be safely asserted that Armed Guards at Leyte destroyed over 100 planes and probably destroyed several more. The average was about 20 planes destroyed for each ship lost. Two merchant ships were sunk and three were abandoned at Leyte for a total loss of five. Fourteen other merchant ships were damaged. There were over 150 casualties to Armed Guards injured at Leyte, but killed and missing numbered only 141.
Armed Guards at Mindoro
Merchant ships became involved in some of the bitterest action of the entire Pacific War at Mindoro. In fact, The Nautical Gazette wrote in October 1945 that more merchant seamen lost their lives in the Mindoro invasion than did personnel in the Army or Navy. The first group of merchant ships reached Mindoro on December 22. Their stay was crowded with action and they suffered heavy losses. The second convoy was to have an equally bad fate, and the third convoy was not without serious loss.
Action began in earnest on December 21. On this date the Nathaniel Ingersoll was credited with a plane and with an assist in the destruction of another. The William S. Colley assisted in downing two planes. She reported that seven planes were either shot down or crashed into ships. One merchant seaman was wounded. The Juan de Fuca hit a plane which dived into her No. 2 hatch. Another went over the ship at 150 feet and dropped a bomb that landed a scant 20 yards off her starboard bow. She hit another plane which dived into the water, but other ships were also firing at this plane. Two Army personnel were killed, one wounded, and three Armed Guards were wounded. One merchant seaman also received injuries. The operation of the ship was unimpaired by the suicide attack. Several Armed Guard reports indicated that two LSTís were crashed by the
Kamikaze pilots. The James H. Breasted received credit for one plane and for two assists and a probable the same day. Her Armed Guard officer reported some strafing in evidence. The Hobart Baker knocked down three planes before the attack of December 21 had ended. The Armed Guards were giving better than they received but many terrible days lay ahead and already the remnants of a once proud Japanese fleet were preparing to attempt the coup de grace to the thin-skinned merchant ships. They almost succeeded.
All merchant ships reached Mindoro on December 22 with only one damaged. From this point the action and experiences of individual ships can best be described ship by ship. But they all shared in the common experience of imminent danger by strong remnants of the Japanese air force and fleet. The Nathaniel Ingersoll went through 37 air attacks and the surface attack on December 26 by a force reported to include a battleship, a cruiser, and six destroyers. Bombs from the hold of the Ingersoll were used to repel this surface attack. They were rushed directly to the airfield. The Ingersoll reported that total losses inflicted by our air and small surface units totaled three destroyers sunk, another damaged, and damage to the cruiser. The Ingersoll had several near misses as she moved from Managrin Harbor to a safer location. The John M. Clayton survived the shelling but was hit by a torpedo near midnight on December 26. This torpedo did
not explode. What is more amazing is that she was hit by another torpedo on December 30 which did not explode. Could it be that the highly vaunted Japanese torpedo had lost its deadly efficiency? The Claytonís luck did not hold out. On January 1 a skip bomb hit No. 3 hold. The attacking plane also strafed the ship. Casualties were heavy, for four Armed Guards died and seven were wounded. Two merchant crewmen were killed and two were wounded. The fire was extinguished in about ten minutes and the ship was beached on January 2.
The James H. Breasted was struck by armor piercing shells at about 2100 during the naval attack of December 26. Two torpedoes missed the ship, but a bomb hit her at 2200. She was abandoned 35 minutes later. By almost a miracle, no one was killed on board this ship.
The Juan de Fuca must have established some kind of record at Mindoro as one of the most bombed ships operated by the War Shipping Administration. The ship got underway on December 26 but bombs fell uncomfortably close. One bomb landed about 100 yards from the ship, another about 25 yards dead ahead, another 30 yards from the ship and a fourth 25 yards away. At the same time she was strafed. Between December 27 and 30 three more bombs landed from 50 to 150 yards from the Juan de Fuca. Her luck ran out on December 31 when a
bomb hit in No. 2 hatch. She then ran on a reef and her crew was taken off, but not before her Armed Guards had fired so efficiently as to be credited with a probable and an assist.
The Hobart Baker came through the naval bombardment of December 26 without mishap. In fact, her Armed Guards hit a small enemy submarine with 20 mm projectiles when the submarine exposed her conning tower. At 0115 on December 30 one bomb missed but another found its mark on the ship. She was abandoned. Next morning only a part of her stern was above water, a sad ending to a fine ship. One of her Armed Guards was slightly wounded. Only the William S. Colley and the Nathaniel Ingersoll came through without damage. But this was the necessary price for victory at Mindoro.
The convoy that left Leyte for Mindoro on December 27, 1944 was made up mainly of Navy ships, but three merchant ships were along. They were the Francisco Morazan, the John Burke, and the William Sharon. On December 28 at about 1000 or a little after two planes dived on the William Sharon and the John Burke. The John Burke loaded with ammunition, exploded and left no evidence. There were no survivors. The William Sharon was hit, but returned to Leyte. Four Armed Guards, the Army Security Officer, and six merchant crewmen were killed. Wounded included nine Armed Guards and six members of the merchant crew. The Sharon was credited with the destruction of one plane and one
assist. The Francisco Morazan expended nearly eleven tons of ammunition at Mindoro. On December 28 she claimed hits on the plane that crashed the William Sharon and on two other planes. She probably destroyed still another plane. On December 29 a Zero crashed and narrowly missed landing on the ship. Fragments of the plane did fall aboard. She hit another Zero which tried to crash an LST but missed. On December 30 her Armed Guard claimed a bomber and hits on another plane which crashed into a Navy tanker. This proud ship went through 53 alerts at Mindoro in addition to the 181 she had experienced at Leyte. Her Armed Guard claimed six planes shot down and two assists at Mindoro plus one assist at Leyte. They fired at a total of 24 planes. The official credit for the ship was six assists, two destroyed, and one probable. Two Armed Guards and four members of the merchant crew were wounded.
The third convoy left Leyte for Mindoro on January 2, 1945. In this convoy were the William I. Chamberlain, the Lewis L. Dyche, and the Allen Johnson. The first two mentioned ships carried ammunition. The three merchant ships were unharmed in a bombing attack on January 2 in which a tanker caught fire. The William I. Chamberlain and the Allen Johnson were both credited with assists in a surprise morning attack on January 3. The Chamberlain was credited with the probable destruction of a plane on January 4. There is no record of the planes that the Lewis L. Dyche shot down, for that unfortunate
ship was hit by a Kamikaze on January 4 in Managrin Bay and completely disintegrated. There were no survivors and her violent explosion caused casualties on a nearby Navy ship. The Nehalem and the Henry M. Stephens found conditions much quieter at Mindoro later in January. But the Nehalem reported aircraft overhead while there from January 24 to February 10. She reported that one vessel was struck by a bomb and she claimed a probable that was not credited. The Henry M. Stephens made a second trip to Mindoro in March and April, but by that time the fury of the Japanese counter attack had spent itself.
The toll to merchant shipping at Mindoro had indeed been heavy. Armed Guard losses in dead and missing ran to 63 and 23 additional Armed Guards were wounded. Merchant ships were officially credited with destroying eight planes, with 16 assists, and with the probable destruction of three other planes.2
A group of merchant ships were in a convoy that arrived at Lingayen Gulf on January 11, 1945, just two days after the landing began. The voyage to Lingayen Gulf from Leyte was without mishap. But action began almost immediately after arrival of the convoy. The Elmira Victory assisted in shooting down a plane which exploded in the water against the side of the ship. Fragments of the plane flew over the ship and made holes in her side. Flying fragments wounded six members of the merchant crew. Fire broke out on the ship and later a case of fragmentation bombs ignited but did not explode. Fortunately, there were no further attacks against the ship while at Lingayen. The Henry Dodge assisted in destroying one plane on January 12 and had two bombs fall close. The George Von L. Meyer reported night attacks by small boats with bombs attached and indicated that several of these attacks were successful. She was credited with an assist in the destruction of a plane on January 12. Her Armed Guards went to general quarters 30 times prior to departure on January 26. Bombs fell fairly close to the Peter Lassen on January 12 on the only occasion in which the enemy penetrated the air defense. She reported 22 alerts. The Juan Cabrillo reported 19 red alerts to January 31 and 16 actual raids. Only on January 12 did two bombs fall close. The Bennington was credited with the destruction of one plane
and an assist in the destruction of another on January 12. One of these planes just missed an ammunition ship and the other landed on the deck of a ship. The John W. Foster reported planes sighted on January 25 and 29 and the Katherine L. Bates had bombs land close on January 27 and 29. But this first group of merchant ships had a much easier time than the second group.
The second convoy reached Lingayen Gulf on January 13. It's heaviest action was on January 12. On this date at about 1253 a plane crashed into the No. 2 hold of the Otis Skinner. Fore raged for 36 hours but she continued toward Lingayen Gulf. There were no personnel casualties. Repairs were completed on February 4 and the ship left for Leyte on February 8. In a late afternoon attack on January 12 a plane hit the Kyle V. Johnson in her No. 3 hold. Apparently this plane had been hit by her 20 mm fire. Fire broke out on the ship. One Armed Guard was burned and there were many American casualties. This ship received credit for one plane destroyed and for an assist against another during the day. She reached Lingayen Gulf.
On the same day at about 1840 the Edward N. Wescott was strafed by a plane. Two men were wounded and other men received minor wounds. A plane then exploded about 50 feet from the ship thanks to the successful gunfire by the Armed Guard. Parts of the plane bounced over the deck of the Wescott and she was hit in a number of places. Although many persons were injured, including seven Armed Guards, the Wescott
brought down another plane which missed an LST by only 30 yards and was credited with two assists. Another plane grazed the David Dudley Field as it crashed into the sea. Its wing hit the ship and sprained some of the plates. One Armed Guard was thrown overboard and lost.
In the early afternoon of January 12 a plane missed the Joe Fellows bridge by only 50 feet at it crashed into another ship. Perhaps this was the plane that crashed [into] the Otis Skinner. Later in the afternoon the Joe Fellows was credited with an assist. The Panama Victory went through 30 alerts at Lingayen Gulf in addition to the attack on January 12. The C. Francis Jenkins claimed three assists on January 12. Along with other ships in the convoy she helped put up such a heavy barrage on the morning of January 13, while off Cape Bolinao, that enemy planes turned back without doing damage. The George Taylor reported that the closest bomb to her fell on January 12 and this was about 300 yards away. The enemy concentrated on the shore units after the ships arrived at Lingayen Gulf. The John Hart received credit for one assist on January 12. The Harriet Monroe assisted in destroying a plane on January 12 while the Charles M. Russell claimed three planes on this date and hits on another on the morning of January 13. On January 27 a bomb fell at some distance from the Russell. The Benjamin H. Brierson claimed a hit on an enemy plane on January 12 and the Justo Arosomena was credited with one plane and one assist. The Arosemena reported that bombs were dropped on January 27 ad 29 and that two fell
close. The C. L. Bodenhamer likewise destroyed an enemy plane and assisted in shooting down another on January 12. The Robert L. Broussard accounted for one plane on this date as did the Stephen Vincent Benet. The Benet also assisted in downing a plane on January 13. Her Armed Guards went to general quarters 78 times at Lingayen Gulf. Other ships in this convoy included the Sidney Edgerton, the Joe Harris, the Ralph T. O'Neil, and the E. A. Burnett. The Burnett claimed that fire from her guns prevented a plane from hitting a ship on January 12.
Other ships visiting Lingayen Gulf from January to March included the John Dockweiler, the Robert Louis Stevenson, the Henry M. Robert, the Ransom A. Moore, the Samuel Lancaster, the Montezuma Castle, the James A. Holmes, the Lost Hills, the Frank H. Evers, and the Hannibal Victory. Several ships fired at enemy planes on March 2 and 22. The Hannibal Victory sighted enemy periscopes on March 28 and April 30 while in Philippine waters. She fired at the periscope on the latter date. The John C. Fremont struck a mine in Manila harbor on March 25 and the Henry Abbott had the same experience on May 1, 1945.
Only one Armed Guard was lost in the Lingayen campaign and only nine were wounded. More than ten planes were destroyed and about twice as many assists were credited.3
Bonbardments at Cebu
The merchant ships of the United States were armed defensively in World War II. They were not equipped to go out and seek the enemy but rather to repel attack in performing their mission of transporting troops and material. Nothing better illustrates the deterioration of the Japanese position in the Philippines than the action of a merchant ship in bombarding a coastal defense position at Cebu. The Michael J. Owens and the Joseph E. Wing both arrived at Cebu within hours after the Army had taken the city. Artillery fire began to land dangerously close to the ships on April 3. In fact, the Wing was hit by shell fragments. The Owens secured permission to attempt to silence the Japanese position. She was given the range and opened [fire] with her 5"/38. The artillery position was silenced for the day but opened up again on April 5. Two rounds passed over the Wing on this date. The enemy again opened fire on April 6 and once more the Owens bombarded his position. The enemy gun was silenced and did not open again. It appears that the merchant ship had knocked out an enemy shore battery.
Index ** Previous Chapter (XIII) ** Next Chapter (XV)
1. Arming Merchant Ship Section Memo. for File, 24 April 1946.
2. Arming Merchant Ship Section Memo. for File, 26 April 1946.
3. Arming Merchant Ship Section Memo. for File, 30 April 1946.